The story you’re about to read doesn’t have gun slinging or standoffs. It doesn’t take place on dusty roads or on top of trains. But make no mistake; it’s a Wild West tale through and through. There are mountains and oil, and slick white men with piles of cash to burn. There are uneven portrayals of Indigenous peoples and deep corruption. And it’s still unclear whose side everyone is on.

Her name’s Christy. She’s been running this part of town for six years now, ever since she took over for that rascally scoundrel Gordon. When he ran himself out of town, she stepped up. Legend has it, only had one elected member of her crew supported her taking over, a backbencher named Harry Bloy. The other guys each had 19.

But she didn’t need her party’s help. Christy won the vote and became sheriff of these here parts. From then on, she’s been freewheeling through the countryside. In the provincial election of 2013, with all the papers predicting her demise, she won again.

Now, after four years, Christy’s looking for another mandate. And it really doesn’t matter if the guys and gals on her side of the bench support her or not. If she loses, you best bet that the rest of her party will be quick to draw their knives on Ol’ Christy. They’ll stick ‘em quick in the back, no remorse, and no guilt. 

It’s always easy to turn on the devil you know, and these Liberals could be ready to ride off into the sunset after 16 years wielding power.

If she wins though, it’ll be in no small part due to the glut of private corporations and well-to-do individual donors she’s in cahoots with. Last time around, she used their shekels to besmirch Adrian Dix’s name.

But by golly, this time could be different.

It’s always easy to turn on the devil you know, and these Liberals could be ready to ride off into the sunset after 16 years wielding power.

It doesn’t help their cause that there’s some new blood in town, John Horgan, out taking selfies with regular folk. Hulk Horgan they call him.  He may be new to the race, but Mr. Horgan ain’t no stranger to the Wild West.

Right now, as it stands in B.C., wealthy corporations and unions are free to donate unlimited amounts of money to curry favour with provincial politicians. And while the number of donations throughout the years will always have peaks and valleys, it’s notable that, during or around an election year, there’s always a spike.

It’s one of those ‘stare straight and fire’ duels that could change it all for years to come. 

In 2013, campaign contributions rose to just below $14.2 million for the Liberals and $10.5 million for the NDP. While numbers for 2017 haven’t been released yet, 2016 was a big year for both parties in their attempts to ramp up fundraising before the election, with the Liberals bringing in north of $12.3 million and the NDP almost $5 million.

If Horgan leads his party to victory, he’s promised to end what’s been called the ‘Wild West’ of political fundraising. And while he’s no choir boy — heck, from 2006-2015 the NDP had the two biggest donors, with over $2 million coming from both the BC Government and Services Union and the United Steelworkers — the ending of corporate donations would likely cripple the Liberals' support.

It’s one of those ‘stare straight and fire’ duels that could change it all for years to come. If Horgan and company were able to turn the tide on big money, it would overhaul the process that what we’ve come to know as normal.

But it’s not as simple as Christy vs. John. There be a whole slew of others involved. Over in oil country, Rachel Notley and her clan wear orange. They recently banned corporate and union donations, and then cut the amount that individuals could donate, cutting off both the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party at the knees.

Then there’s the smooth talking, climate scientist Professor, Andrew Weaver. Weaver’s Greens don’t want any of the union or corporation money either, pledging to match the rules set by the feds up in Ottawa: a $1,550 limit annually for individuals.

Weaver also wants to take another page from the feds and ban MLA’s and cabinet ministers from lobbying for companies for a number of years after they leave office.

There’d have to be a hard price line for those freewheeling renegades eager to spend their cash as individuals.

Is there any dirt on these here Greens? The party banned corporate and union donations last year and, while there was a fear they might be left behind, they’ve managed to present themselves as a legitimate third party. And, after doing so, their 2016 contributions shot up to double the previous year.

Last election, full-page ads were taken out on Vancouver Island — where the Greens are strongest — commending former leader Jane Sterk. Where you reckon they came from?

It’s long been known in B.C. that if you pay, you get to play. Christy and her cabinet ministers have been known to saddle up to dinners at monolith mansions on Vancouver’s West Side, charging $20,000 for the Premier’s ear.

But don’t you worry, it’s all peachy keen and squeaky clean, I’ll tell ya. B.C. Conflict of Interest Commissioner ruled that Paul Fraser ruled that Christy’s cash-for-access didn’t create a conflict, no sir. Nothing to see here. Hmm, Fraser. Pretty sure I’ve seen that name before. Coulda sworn he had a son.

Would getting rid of donations clean up these towns for good? Well, it’s hard to say. It’d sure let other issues come into focus. But it’s hard to imagine you wouldn’t see loopholes start coming out every which way. There’d have to be a hard price line for those freewheeling renegades eager to spend their cash as individuals.

But they aren’t coming in on a golden steed and running the corruption completely out of the saloon and through the gates.

And even then there’d be distant relatives and cousins of well-known mining moguls coming out of the woodwork to land on party donor lists as contributing the maximum amount.

It’ll help some if Horgan or Weaver gets elected, sure. But they aren’t coming in on a golden steed and running the corruption completely out of the saloon and through the gates. There’s big money here, and as long as there’s oil in the fields and a red-hot housing market, it’ll stay here.

This might be the best shot for the boys and girls in orange. But even if they do it, even if they time it perfectly, turn and fire and blow Christy’s head clean off in one pull, the money will stay put. And the cries to use it will only get louder every time there’s a new poll about the economy or debt or how bad the government is financially.

Then, in four years or less, a new leader will emerge, with the same set of corporate backers, ready to bend the rules to their will. There ain’t no real getting rid of the Wild West.